I used to envy the mother pushing her pram down the street, dressed in her tracksuit. 'How comfy and easy life must be,' I thought.
Seeing a family, sitting at a cafe - the toddler strapped in to a highchair devouring a piece of cake - I'd think, 'Family time together. How precious.'
Then I had my own children, and the reality of those scenarios hit me.
The mum pushing the pram? Well, the tracksuit she was wearing was probably the only thing left in her wardrobe - apart from her maternity clothes - that she could fit in to after giving birth to her son. Three months before. And whilst elasticised pants sounded like heaven to her during early pregnancy, by the time her baby was born she was over them. Her baby probably hadn't slept for the past eight hours, and having been up all night trying to settle him, feed him and walk him up and down the hallway rubbing his back, the 'stroll' was a last ditch attempt to stop him from screaming his head off - and to keep her from losing her mind.
And the family at the cafe? More than likely, five minutes after I left - my stomach full and the newspaper read from front to back - the toddler would start smearing the cake she was eating in to her hair and would then throw it on the floor - maybe even at other patrons in the cafe. When scolded by her mother not to (because her Daddy was too busy reading the newspaper to notice), she would then proceed to throw a tantrum, attracting lots of tsk-tsking from the little old ladies on the adjacent table. The mother would then express her frustration that she can't, "even sit for five minutes and enjoy a meal anymore without drama!" And she'd be right.
Why is it, before I had children myself, I didn't really know just how challenging parenting could be? Always a blessing, but also...difficult at times. (And I'm not just talking about the physical daily stuff we do for our children, but the emotions experienced when raising a child. When my children are upset, it pulls at my heart strings like nothing else can.)
Did I refuse to see it? Was I brainwashed by advertising campaigns featuring smiling, happy children (and parents) giving me a false sense of what lie ahead? Were parents I knew not 'fessing up to just how hard being a parent could be at times? I never thought parenthood would be 'easy' per se, but I did think it would be a lot less challenging than what it actually is at times.
When Jacinta Tynan wrote her honest, yet rather (in my opinion) irresponsible article about how mothers complain too much and motherhood isn't hard at all, I took offence to it. My main concern when Jacinta described motherhood as "a breeze" was that such an article could push some poor mother - especially one experiencing postnatal depression - over the edge. Can you imagine? Just when you think you couldn't be more of a failure as a mother, someone comes along telling you that from where she stood, "...motherhood is a cinch."
When she wrote, "It's not as if we didn't know what we were signing up for," and how it, "...has become de rigueur to complain about how arduous the whole thing is...," I couldn't disagree more.
No one told me that some days with my kids would feel like Groundhog Day. The same arguments, the same frustrations, the same drive to and from after school activities, the same preparation of my child's school lunch box. Some days, the whole predictability of it all is almost too much to handle.
Many mothers are keeping, well, mum about how they really feel. Can you blame them? Hell, we're living in the 'we can have it all' period. To admit that actually, you're letting the team down because just negotiating with your toddler what they'll wear each day is doing your head in, and the thought of trying to hold down a career as well sends you in to a tailspin, seems just plain silly. Because, you know, what's-her-name is raising three kids, running her own business, studying, knitting jumpers in her spare time, keeping the perfect home and making time to exercise and she never complains, so why should you?
As mothers, we're not supposed to complain, and when we do, we often immediately feel guilty for doing so. (And let me say for the record, that I would never wish my life any different. Any difficult day with my kids is better than any day I had in the past before they were born.) We're just supposed to feel "blessed" that we are mothers at all! And that's true - we should feel blessed, and (most of us - I'm one of them) do. However, isn't it just bollocks to expect us to never complain about the inevitable monotony that life presents to us? Should we just keep our true feelings inside, and drown in guilt instead when we don't feel like doing a happy dance every day in celebration of motherhood?
You see, the mothers who supposedly have it all? They don't. No matter how many happy, smiley pictures they have on their Facebook page of themselves with their kids, or blog posts they write about their wonderful life, they have crap days just like you and me. Guaranteed, there's always something that's falling through the cracks in their life - and hey, there's also the cleaner, the gardener and babysitter they probably aren't telling you about, because they are (wrongly) embarrassed to do so.
In a magazine article recently, Mummy Mayhem, and another blog, were referred to as blogs, "whose owners all place great store on how normal and imperfect their mothering is." (Madison Magazine, July 2011). I can't tell you how proud I am of that quote. It has always been my hope that other mothers could relate to my posts on parenting issues. I want mothers and fathers to feel they can express they're at times confused, frustrated and disillusioned. I personally refuse to feel guilt about occasionally complaining about my life. I do that because a) I want to help others know they are not alone; and b) I need reassurance that everything will be okay, and that I'm not a failure and I'm just human. Okay?
In the movie, Forrest Gump, Forrest says, "My momma always said, 'Life was like a box chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'" And that's partly true. Life is filled with shiny, multi-coloured moments of pure joy when you open up the wrappers of life and discover what's inside.
Some days, though, life is like a bag of lemons. You know exactly what you're gonna get, and it's probably going to leave a sour taste in your mouth. That's just life.
It's how you choose to use those lemons that makes all the difference.
What about you? Did you find being a parent was a lot more challenging than you thought it would be? Do you think mothers should feel free to complain if they want to? If you're not a parent yourself, do you find it difficult when you read parents expressing their honest opinions about how tough parenting can be?